An afternoon at the oldest mountain restaurant in France…
Ascending the Mont d’Arbois télécabine on a lovely early Spring afternoon in Megève, we sailed over a wonderfully positioned mountain restaurant and decided it might make for a good late lunch stop. We were not wrong…
On descending the slope to the imposing wooden building, we were greeted by a friendly ski valet who took our skis for us. There was also a fiery red Rebellion Le Mans LMP2world champion racecar there for good measure! I wondered how it’d got there but I’ve now seen the video of it being flown in hanging from a helicopter… the obvious choice!
We moved around to the front of the building and were greeted by glorious sunshine and a stunning view of the glistening Alps to the left and a bustling terrace complete with plenty of people watching opportunities, the aroma of lovely dishes being served by bronzed staff in moon boots and funky Ibiza chillout songs being played by a DJ and saxophonist from a booth at the far end of the terrace. It was safe to say we’d made a good choice!
I indulged in a mouth-watering tartiflette which could easily have fed two, my companion chose steak tartare which he raved about and our neighbours were devouring Fine de Claire oysters* which they seemed very pleased with. At the top of the terrace there was also a sushi bar for those looking for a lighter choice and for those only interested in liquid refreshments then there are plenty of options too… the champagne was definitely flowing for the table of ladies enjoying a mid-afternoon boogie.
As well as having all of the ingredients to serve up the perfect leisurely Spring skier’s afternoon (and note that everything is done in a leisurely fashion here, so if you’re after a quick fix or something cheap to grab and go, this is not the place for you), there’s also a great back story to serve as a garnish. The restaurant was opened in 1934, making it the original, oldest, first ever mountain restaurant in France. Our server also explained the origin of the name Les Mandarines, the mandarin oranges. The story has it that the spot where the restaurant now sits used to be popular place for to stop for a picnic for mountaineers back in the nineteen thirties, thanks to the stunning uninterrupted views of Mont Blanc and South-facing location. Interestingly this isn’t explained on their website. It could be because it’s actually a myth but I think it’s a great story so I’m sticking to it.
For those looking to take things up a level why not reserve a place in the chic SkyLounge bar, offering luxurious furnishings and views down to the village below, gondola above and Mont Blanc in the distance.
After eating our fill, dancing to the tunes and enjoying copious amounts of people-watching it was time to get back to that other fun thing to do up in the mountains, skiing! The ski valet saw us coming around the corner and had our equipment laid out ready for us to clip into before we’d even got to him, much less handed our identifying number. He then proceeded to help us pore over the ski map and offered some suggestions. If you are heading to Megève and are finding your thighs are getting a little sore, the snow is getting a little slushy or you simply like to indulge in good quality high altitude food then I’d highly recommend a visit. Please do get in touch if you’d like any other recommendations or assistance with accommodation bookings in the village as I have several and would be happy to help.
* In case you didn’t know… Cultured on the French Atlantic coast, Fine de Claire is the preferred oyster for people who love less fleshy and more juicy oysters with a balanced taste. This oyster must be refined in the shallow water of the claires basins, according to a strictly stipulated number of months and a maximum limit on the number of oysters (20) per square meter. The result is a less meaty but juicy oyster rich in water, with translucent or white mantle, an earthy flavour, smooth with an incredible lingering after taste. They come in varieties no1, 2 or 3 and the difference refers to the weight and length of time they’ve been growing for. No3 are served at Les Mandarines.
Author: Emma Casburn
Founder of Stylish Travel and lover of all things snow